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Join the Conversation: Using Social Media to Enhance Your Practice

LAUREN M. GREEN @OncNurseEditor | April 25, 2015
Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN

Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN

Do social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook represent an opportunity for oncology nurses to network and keep up with the latest in evidence-based practice, or are they a time-sucking nuisance, and even worse, a possible professional landmine?

For insights on these questions, oncology nurses need look no further than some of their own colleagues who have enthusiastically embraced social media and are eager for you to join them.

In fact, “the biggest risk in healthcare social media is not participating in the conversation,” stressed Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN, director of Oncology Services at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, Texas, in a talk at the 2015 ONS Annual Congress focused on how oncology nurses can get connected for maximum nursing—and patient—engagement. Watson was joined by Carol Bush, BS, RN, a nurse navigator with the University of Kansas Cancer Center, and Michele Longabaugh, RN, an anal cancer survivor.
Carol Bush, BS, RN

Carol Bush, BS, RN

The three nurse presenters got to know each other—you guessed it—by connecting through social media. For Bush, “going social”—whether it’s through blogging, having a LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, Facebook page, or in her case, all of the above—offers multiple benefits to the practicing oncology nurse. These include communication and collaboration with healthcare professionals and rapid access to the latest developments in oncology, a resource she finds especially useful, since a big part of her job is curating evidence-based practice.

Another advantage social media offers, said Longabaugh, is “meeting patients where they are.” Often, these social networks are where clinicians can glean additional insight into what’s really on the mind of patients and caregivers, who are often more likely to open up in these forums than in the clinic. The forums allow patients to connect through online communities and blog about their experiences, something Longabaugh started doing when she was first diagnosed (
Michele Longabaugh, RN

Michele Longabaugh, RN

The internet and social media are also where many patients and survivors are getting their healthcare information, so it’s important for nurses to stay on top of what’s out there.

“More and more healthcare information is being crowdsourced on social media sites,” noted Watson, who started as a “micro blogger” on Twitter in 2010, now has her own blog ( and also blogs for ONS. “If you don’t participate, our patients will get incorrect information.”

“Nurses are trusted curators and collaborators,” added Bush, so with all these benefits, why not engage?
When the presenters asked the audience whether they could do more with social media, the majority were unsure, with some mentioning that they didn’t think their workplaces supported it—or even had a policy.

Watson told them they’re likely to find that their institution probably does have a social media policy, but in any case, a helpful question to ask yourself before posting on social media is, “Why I am doing this?” She also pointed to how the Mayo Clinic has distilled its social media policy into 12 words: “Don’t lie. Don’t pry. Don’t cheat. You can’t delete. Don’t steal. Don’t reveal.”

While interacting with peers online may at first seem daunting, said Longabaugh, “a single connection with one person that shares a common thread can weave a tapestry of bridges and inject you into a community that shares your career goals, your interests, and your challenges.”

She showed how her first follow on twitter (@CancerGeek) has expanded into a huge network of meaningful connections.

And for those who understandably fear that they just don’t have enough time for social media, Watson reminded them that participants control what they share, who they follow (or unfollow), and how often they monitor news from their accounts: “Social media is a virtual fire hydrant of information, but you can just take a sip.”

Bush said that when she gives presentations on clinical issues, the nurses she meets with lament the time they already have to spend in front of a screen or with an EMR. The number one fear she hears from nurses about technology and social media is, “I don’t want to lose that human touch.” Bush stressed that technology and social media are just tools and will never replace human interaction, but rather, enhance it by “freeing up our resources and intensifying our connections.”

Oncology nurses who want to learn more about what professional and personal rewards may be in store by joining the conversation, these three social media pros (@cbushrn, @CrazyAssCancer, and @joniwatson) invite you to reach out to them to help you get started.

Find more practical tips for nurses on navigating the world of social media here:

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